Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Out and Proud

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Out and Proud

Article excerpt

Dr. Matthew Adams has heard that there are other LGBT staff members at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), but he hasn't met any of them.

"I know that there are very few of us," says Adams, an assistant professor of civil engineering at NJIT. Adams, who grew up near Manchester, New Hampshire, began identifying as gay when he was a teenager. He came out when he was 18, at which point he thought he would never again have to hide "in the closet."

That was until he came to NJIT in the fall of 2015 to begin his career as a college professor. Adams describes the institution as a "fairly apolitical university" that is not "the most openly welcoming place."

To be clear, he says, no one has said anything derogatory to him directly, and the university doesn't necessarily have "an anti-gay bent," but it also doesn't have any faculty committees dedicated to diversity like other colleges of its size.

During his first term at NJIT, Adams felt it was better to not be open about his sexuality. Soon though, he realized, "I should be more vocal. I should be more visible--for any of my students who might be gay to show them that you can be successful in this career and be out."

Because the university didn't offer such a course, Adams took a safe zones class online, which taught him best practices on cultivating an inclusive and respectful classroom for LGBTQ students. And he placed his completion sticker in public view. He also put a pride tag on his office door.

At the beginning of every term, while introducing himself, he now discloses that he prefers the masculine pronoun. "Everyone in my class so far has given me a weird look when I say that, but someday I may have a student that prefers another pronoun than what they visually present as, and I want them to know that they can tell me what that is," he says. "I will use it... just to make students more comfortable."

Adams remembers what it was like to be the only gay male civil engineering student at the University of New Hampshire, where he received his bachelor's degree in 2006. While he was never bullied, "I ended up with more [platonic] girlfriends than boyfriends. I just seemed to get along with them better, and I'm not really sure why," he says. And he gravitated away from the engineering club "because they weren't as welcoming."

In high school, Adams was interested in designing amusement parks, which he developed from spending a lot of time playing RollerCoaster Tycoon, a video game series that simulates amusement park management. …

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